New Year is an event that is universally celebrated by people around the world. The celebrations signify the welcoming of a fresh stock of new days, a new beginning, new desires and new things. It also makes us take stock of our experiences in the year going past so that we learn important lessons from them. The passing of a year is generally considered as an opportunity to leave behind old memories so that we are not saddled with any chip on our shoulders. The New Year gives us an opportunity to turn over a brand new leaf for the coming year so that we get inspired to explore new avenues. Irrespective of caste, creed and age, people throughout look forward to be part of the mirthful celebrations while hoping for better luck and fortune in the year ahead. Celebrations that take place with a carnivalesque kind of fervor are also a time when cultural tradition blends in with modernity.
While the modern world follows the Gregorian calendar which considers January 1 each year as New Year's Day, there are faiths that follow their own calendar systems to determine the dates for important ceremonies and occasions. Consequently, different religions celebrate the New Year as per their own traditions and customs though the enthusiasm is the same. Some solemnly observe prayers and fasts, while others boisterously burst crackers and feast. When it comes to religious traditions influencing the New Year, the Islamic New Year has interesting anecdotes attached to it.
The calendar that Islam follows is guided by the trajectory of the moon. One calendar year comprises 354 days, i.e., eleven day shorter than the solar calendar. This makes the New Year date also vary each year. The Muslim New Year is celebrated on the first day of Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar. New Year's Day is used to remind Muslims of the Hijra or migration, of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. It is a known fact that the actual migration did not take place on the first day of Muharram. It probably took place in the third Islamic month. The Islamic calendar itself was instituted after the actual migration. As a result of the association of the Islamic calendar with Hijra, New Year's Day is an important occasion to remember the significance of the Prophet's migration.
The way the Muslims celebrate New Year's Day is very different from other New Year's Day celebrations. They gather in mosques and offer special prayers and listen to special readings from the Koran. An important part of the prayer service is the narration of the Hegira or the flight of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. Muslims are supposed to reflect on their lives, the manner in which they are leading their lives and about their own mortality. The day is spent in prayer and on reflecting on how one is leading one's life. There are no celebrations that we normally associate with New Year's Day. The New Year is known as 'Maal Hijra' among the Muslims. Of late, a number of Muslims have taken to sending greeting cards to each other on their New Year's Day.
Read about Islamic New Year and Muslim New Year.